No Matter What This Year Brings

It always started with a piece of roast beef…the most expensive, central part of the meal.

Then came the carrots, cut into chunks, not coins.  Potatoes and onions, peeled and quartered.  Cabbage, halved.


And nothing else.

All in one pot, for hours.

This simplicity of this meal betrayed the weight of its meaning.

New England boiled dinner, prepared by my mother every New Year’s Eve, to be consumed at midnight.

Every single year, at midnight.

Dick Clark’s voice in the background, steaming broth, carrots, potatoes, roast beef, onions, and cabbage in front of us.

“No matter what this year brings,” my mother would say, “we will have started it off with a full stomach.”

She is from a family where this was a genuine concern.

I am from a family where this was a genuine concern.

There were many nights when my mother wouldn’t eat dinner with us.  She’d wave us off, claiming she wasn’t hungry or she had had a late lunch.  She would sit and ask us about school, tell us bits about her day.

But we saw her.  In the kitchen where she had carried our plates, eating straggling string beans, abandoned peas, the tough piece of meat that we pushed aside, the crust from our bread.

We saw her.

But, on New Year’s Eve, the roast was so tender that the gentle nudge of a spoon would break it.

The carrots, potatoes, onions, cabbage, plentiful.

We ate bowls full of New England boiled dinner.

My mother sacrificed so much so that we would feel the bite of having not enough just a little bit less.

No matter what the year ultimately brought, we had started it off with plenty.

Thank you, Mom, for each and every sacrifice you made for us. I will never forget all that you tried to shield us from.


  1. Wow. I hope that in a time of crisis I can behave as selflessly as your mother.

  2. Lesile

    That was just so touching. Just so starkly different from the New Year's Eve's I experienced (and the mindset, even, I experienced). Not that we had much money, but time wasn't spent focused on making sure we felt good regardless of our situation. It was spent bemoaning it. Even on New Year's Eve.

    What a lovely, lovely sentiment – both your mother's and your words now.

    Thank you for such a heartfelt start to the day.

  3. ksluiter

    This is amazing to me. Again, a post that reminds me of my grandmother. Working in the houses of my mom's friends as a housekeeper or taking in their laundry just to pay their school tuition. When she died? we found huge bottles of prune juice still from the 1960s when she would stock up at the Welfare store. Her large deep freezer in the basement was completely full of dinners/leftovers she had frozen. She never threw anything out in case it was needed. She lived through such hard times, that when things were better? She held on to ever single thing she could. Just in case.

  4. ksluiter

    Oh and?

    Recently I have been finding my roots in your writing.

    That is an amazing gift you have, my friend. I wish I had more time to write it out too.ight here!

  5. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    Beautifully done. Lovely sentiment. So poignant about her eating your discards..

  6. I also grew up in a world where hungry was a real thing.

    Being able to buy a mocha whenever the hell I want is a validation of a dozen things.

    And not a single one of them has to do with coffee.

  7. Lynn Hufstetler

    Beautiful. You had a great mom.

  8. Booyah's Momma

    I've only been here a few times, but each time I stop by, I'm just wowed by your writing and stories. This was beautiful, sad and inspiring at the same time. And your mother sounds amazing.

  9. Another inspired post. Your mother was amazing.

    Stopping by from the red dress club.

  10. Jen

    This was a beautiful post. As mother's we will do with out so our children can have it all.

    Stopped over from The Red Dress Club.

  11. Marian

    Nichole, this is a very touching post. thank you for sharing it.
    in hard times? i have fed my family instead of myself. true, real, happens.

  12. Nichole

    She was a rock. Truly.

  13. Nichole

    Thank you, Leslie.
    I still try to make this on New Years Eve, but I have skipped a few years and I'm always sad when I don't make it.
    It's such a big part of beginning a new year.

  14. Nichole

    I am not a fan of this whole working thing that you're doing.
    I wish you were at home. Sigh.

  15. Nichole

    Thank you, Cheryl.
    Food was just one of the many things that my mother gave up for us in lean times.

  16. Nichole

    Validation is a perfect way to say it. Perfect.
    Buying a mocha or going out to eat will probably always feel like little luxuries to me.
    (And ahem…you are drinking mochas?!)

  17. Nichole

    Thank you, Lynn.
    I do indeed.

  18. Nichole

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I love that I was able to convey all of those things here.
    And yes, my mother really is. :)
    She taught me about sacrifice and now that I'm a mother I'd rather pay for things like gymnastics than buy a new purse or shoes.
    She taught me well.

  19. Nichole

    Thank you so very much!

  20. Nichole

    We really do, don't we?
    I would give up anything for my children. Absolutely anything.
    Thank you for coming by. :)

  21. Nichole

    Thank you, Marian, for reading and for sharing your words with me.

  22. MommyLisa

    So glad I found you through Twitter. What lovely writing! ;) And a lovely mother…


  23. jessicaanne1

    Beautiful. Beautifully written and a beautiful testament to your mother. She sounds like an amazing woman.

  24. This is beautifully written. What a fabulous tribute to your mother. You have summed up her character in one short story. That's quite a feat!

  25. Rachel

    Beautiful post! I need to join in on this Red Dress Club!!

  26. Nichole

    Wow…thank you so much for that compliment! It's funny, because I was trying for spare to mirror the meal.
    Thank you so much for coming by and for leaving such a lovely comment.

  27. Nichole

    I'm so happy we found each other too!
    Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
    And lovely she is. :)

  28. Nichole

    Thank you so much!
    She gave up a lot for us and I'll never forget that.

  29. Nichole

    Thank you so very much!
    I loved this Red Writing Hood prompt this week. I knew immediately what I would write about.

  30. Nichole

    Thank you, Rachel!
    Yes, you do need to participate! Just pick a prompt and jump right in. :)

  31. Candice

    You had me in tears. I think your mother was fantastic. I always wonder how mothers like yours could be so selfless and then I became a mother and now I understand full well all I'd give up for them to have everything. My grandparents survived the Holocaust and whenever there was any kind of get together her sister would get a napkin and fill it with whatever cookie bread etc there was. My mom once told me it was b/c she had to scavange for food in those times and she never stopped worrying that one day there would be no food. I don't know anything about that reality, but you certainly do and wrote it beautifully.

  32. CDG

    Beautiful, Nichole.

    You have such a gift for culling the loveliest moments out of so much noise.

  33. liz

    Wow, what an amazing woman. When do you think you realized that she had been doing that all along? I bet it's hard to think about now.

  34. I am tearing up. You weave this together in a way that seems to effortlessly meld together the memory and the adult realization of your mother's selflessness. I found these two lines so powerful:

    She is from a family where this was a genuine concern.

    I am from a family where this was a genuine concern.

  35. Carrie

    That is a wonderful memory of your mother. What a beautiful person she was, to sacrifice for her children like that.

  36. kris

    I love your ability to pick a moment and focus on that moment.

    Your ability to so deeply feel that memory, that moment, without indulging in all the other memories that wash over you . . . that is lovely. That ability to focus. To celebrate. To separate.

    For me?

    That is sometimes difficult.

    Thank you.

  37. Sherri

    Man, you really took us all there, to that table at midnight with the highly anticipated meal. Your mom made such an impression, and I love how you took us there.

    Your writing is just beautiful.

  38. With every post, you manage to make me feel like I'm in your mind, in your heart. Your writing is such a great gift that you share, I adore it each time I see a new post pop up in my reader. Thank you, as always, for sharing.

  39. The Sweetest

    it's amazing the sacrifices our mothers (and their mothers) made. Lovely tribute.

  40. C. Mom

    Beautiful post!! I felt as if i could taste the carrots! I need to check out the red dress club!

  41. Ash

    My greatest fear, not being able to feed my family. I cannot fathom your mother's worry, but I can feel her undying love and devotion for her children. Excellent.

    How much joy she must have had in preparing that one New Year's meal. A mini mental vacation from the everyday reality of making ends meet.

  42. meredith

    oh, this is so clear and poignant and heart-wrenching. love to you.

  43. Tonya

    Wow, what an amazing, selfless, beautiful mother you had. The true definition. Lovely piece.

  44. @sogeshirts

    A wonderful post and a terrific way to honor your mother. What a great tribute. Moms really do sacrifice everything for their kids. Your writing Nichole really makes me picture the whole vivid scene. I feel like I was just at New Years eve with your family.

  45. Megan- Best of Fates

    So touching – this post almost made me cry.

    Okay, it did make me cry just a little.

    Now see what you've done – I've exposed myself to the Internet!

    It's only a small step to buying a webcam and my own site.

    Actually, now that I think about it, I already have those two things.

    That can't be good.

  46. Natalie

    This post brought back memories for me of my mom when we were young. She also sacrificed to make sure we could eat. As a mother now I realize what "sacrifice" really means. And I know without a doubt that I would do the same thing for my children.

  47. […] No Matter What This Year Brings October 8, 2010 […]

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